“Far away land among the waves,” Nantucket, home of the Wampanoags, was settled by the English in the early 1600’s. Hardwood forests were cut down to build homes and whaling ships, then the sheep came to graze the once forested land into open pastures. Still on the island today, although there are no sheep anymore, open land they cleared is preserved. The Nantucket Conservation Association wants to preserve the island’s natural environment, but what has come up in recent years is that the open moor land of the island was not the original ecosystem. There was once a hardwood forest across the island, a forest which we are burning and chopping down to preserve the “natural ecosystem.”
I’ve spent much of my life wandering the island and finding many nooks and crannies that most folks, even locals don’t know; poison ivy, ticks and thorns have not stopped me from finding hidden ponds or stands of trees. I see the poison ivy somewhat like a guardian, stopping anyone not determined enough to be out on the land. I was determined enough to even eat the young leaves of it every day for a month to build an immunity to it, and it worked. I could then traipse through thick patches of it and not get a rash.
My family goes back to the first settlers of the island, the Starbucks, and walking its shores or pine groves I feel a deep connection to the point where I feel I am walking beside my ancestors, and the ancestors of the Wampanoags. Inspired by the many ecosystems and bird species and by the beautiful ocean dwindling so quickly of fish, I began teaching outdoor skills and ecology to children at a local Waldorf school. It has since put me on the path of the teacher. I want to see the island fruitful and alive, with folks creating much of their own food, sustainable energy and conservation practices for the land and sea.